Open Thread Jan. 10: First Syllable, Rhymes With ‘Thumb’

Filed in National by on January 10, 2018

You have to wonder how long the charade can continue.

Is there anybody left — besides Trump himself — who still thinks that he’s a mastermind, a genius whose tweets mean anything beyond demonstrating that this is a guy with a big ego, a big mouth and not much going on upstairs? Anyone left who thinks that “Trumpism” is a coherent set of policy positions and not a cult of personality? Anybody left who thinks we have a functioning president?

It’s been a year since I wrote that Trump’s defining characteristic, beyond his toxic egotism, was his declining mental acuity, and the signs have only gotten stronger since. While psychoanalysts spent months parsing whether he was a paranoid narcissist or just a skeevy perv, and political pundits tried to establish the underlying philosophy for his policies, those around him had a simpler but more important task — to establish and keep up a pretense that, beyond the ceremonial aspect, Trump is able to perform the basic functions of his job.

Two things happened yesterday that should make this game obsolete. First, Sen. Diane Feinstein released the testimony of the GPS Fusion execs about “the dossier,” the one that included the rumors about Russian hookers. Throughout the investigation of the Trump-Russia connections, starting before the election, top senators and representatives on the intelligence committees have known lots of details the public didn’t. Because Democrats were still maintaining traditions of decorum, they did not release what they knew to the public, but they dropped millions of hints that amounted to “if people knew what we do, they’d be concerned.”

Republicans used the cover Democrats provided to straight-up lie about “the dossier,” who compiled it and why, and what was done with the information it gathered. They complained that it’s a “political” opposition research document, as if opposition research normally involved making stuff up. (They know, and you should too, that oppo research is useless if it can be discredited, which is why we spent a week arguing about Roy Moore and an old yearbook.) Trump, of course, took news of the FBI’s involvement as evidence people were plotting against him, rather than a warning sign that people were on to his money-laundering game. (People who lie their way through life always think they can get away with another one.) Feinstein’s move revealed the Republican claims about the dossier and the British spy who compiled it were lies. Will the Republicans keep up this pretense now that the truth is revealed? They might. They’re either that dumb or they think the public is.

More worrisome for those propping up Trump had to be the photo-op White House meeting about immigration. Trump invited both Democrats and Republicans, supposedly to try to forge some compromise. Instead, he babbled semi-coherently, agreeing with both Democrats and Republicans on mutually opposing positions before throwing the mess back at the assembled Congresscritters and telling them he’ll sign whatever they come up with.

It’s been widely noted in recent weeks that Trump is not exactly busting his fat ass with work, and this meeting shows why: He can’t focus long enough to do any. Given his performance yesterday, which the White House tried to cover for by fudging the official transcript, every Republican in Washington must be having nightmares about what he might do during the State of the Union address.

Republicans have to be even more worried about Trump’s responses to all this. First he had his personal lawyer file a lawsuit against Buzzfeed for publishing the dossier a year ago — yeah, that sad old trick again. Then he tweeted that Feinstein’s release of the testimony was “possibly illegal,” which it’s not.

Trump’s impregnable resolve was on display, too. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, like many governors of coastal states, squealed like a stuck pig when Trump announced the entire U.S. coast is open to oil exploration. Scott made his plea based on the state’s tourism industry, and it probably helped his cause that Mar a Lago also depends on that industry, because the administration announced yesterday that Florida is exempt from the order.

Ultimately, this is why Republicans eventually will have no choice but to remove Trump from office: He can’t hold a position long enough to get through a meeting. As the immigration confab yesterday showed, he is faking his way through his dementia basically by agreeing with whatever the last person he talked to told him. I’m sure some Republicans gagged on their tongues when he said during that meeting that he was in favor of tying the DACA cases to the budget bill, and that they weren’t totally calmed down by his quick reversal.

One GOP strategist said over the weekend that the party might move to remove Trump — but only if and after it gets wiped out in the midterm elections. I think he’s right, but events of the past week make me wonder whether Trump’s brain will hold out that long.

Another unqualified candidate for a government job wouldn’t normally make my list, but this one’s so bad it roused Tom Carper from his perpetual torpor to comment.

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  1. Alby says:

    Also, California Rep. Darrell Issa has joined the Republican exodus from Congress.

    Guess he got tired of all the winning.

  2. Ben says:

    What possible reason would republicans have to remove trump if they get beaten in the mid-terms? They’ll close ranks and back him like they always do. If they are in the minority in congress, it makes that job even easier.
    It is already starting, this wagon circling. They have primaries to win. Their Primary voters are the Cult 45. They HAVE to bend to these fucking pigs.

  3. Dana Garrett says:

    Alby, I respectfully disagree that Republicans will remove Trump. It’s in their interest to continue to lie about him and reframe his behavior as acceptable because otherwise removing him would be tatamount to admitting that Republicans can’t be trusted to produce candidates capable of governing. I’m afraid that we are stuck with Trump for one term…at least.

  4. Mike Dinsmore says:

    If Trump is removed under the 25th. Amendment, can every Executive Order which he signed be challenged due to his mental stability or lack thereof? Just wondering.

  5. Yo, Mikey D, send me your e-mail address. It’s almost time for your musical closeup.

  6. Bill Clinton says:

    Trump is going nowhere. Time to start working on solutions or we’ll end up where we left off with Obama.

  7. Alby says:

    @Ben and DG: Your pessimism is understandable, but it’s rooted in stasis — that is, that things will never change. But they will.

    My thinking is based on the simple fact that Trump’s condition gets worse by the week. They barely dodged a bullet with that White House meeting yesterday. This presidency is going to become, if it hasn’t already, a never-ending version of “Weekend at Bernie’s,” in which his handlers and the GOP Congress keep pretending he’s functioning while all other evidence shows otherwise.

    Why would Republicans turn on Trump after they lose? Same reason a team fires the coach when it loses. People avoid pain. They won’t get rid of him yet because that would cause more pain than keeping him. Once it becomes clear that keeping him is the more damaging position — for example, when a Senate seat considered safe goes to the Democrats in 2018 — they’ll change. With their gerrymanders being struck down state by state, even in the House they’ll change.

    Feinstein’s move yesterday changed the game immeasurably. Everyone who’s paying attention — granted, that’s a small number of people, but it was in Watergate, too — sees that the GOP was straight-up lying about Fusion GPS. Yes, it seems to us that given their titanium-reinforced information bubble they can survive such lying even once it’s been made clear they are lies, but that’s speculative. There’s no evidence that people will keep believing them forever. Well, maybe evangelicals will. Their stupidity and stubbornness make a mule seem like Einstein.

    Dana, you assume that the only way Trump leaves is through government action by Congress. That’s not the case. If Democrats gain the House, which I expect they will, Trump will have to deal with people who aren’t in on the ruse on a regular basis. That’s what happened yesterday. His public schedule has been pared back to nearly nothing. This worked with Reagan in large part because we didn’t realize how much his mind had slipped. It’s not working with Trump, and the lie will become progressively harder to keep in place.

    Remember Watergate. Republicans didn’t move against Nixon because they wanted to, they did it because the public gave them no choice. The same will happen with Trump. I can’t give you a date, I can’t even guarantee it will happen, but I put the odds at between 60% and 75% that it does.

    I disagree that Republicans are worried they’ll look like fools. They’re worried they might be charged with obstruction of justice, which they would in a non-partisan situation. What they’ve done in Congress amounts to nothing less.

  8. Alby says:

    @Bill Clinton: Well, to start with, that’s a dickhead screen name.

    Second, you’re going to have to show your reasoning — or demonstrate that you’re capable of it — before I’m going to pay any attention to you, other than to note that you have a dickhead screen name.

  9. SussexWatcher says:

    LaKresha Roberts is stepping down as chief deputy AG to run for the top job, WDDE reports:

    TNJ is just getting their asses beat on everything these days. Christ.

  10. Alby says:

    Here ya go: Margaret Carlson watched Tuesday’s immigration meeting and saw the same things I did. She doesn’t reach the same conclusion — she goes out of her way not to reach one — but this was an event held for the express purpose of showing him capable of doing his job, and he flunked it.

  11. The post-‘Fire & Fury’ world is informed by the clear realization that Trump has lost his faculties. That staged meeting, designed for the express purpose of demonstrating Trump’s competence, demonstrated the exact opposite. He had no clue what any of the legislators were saying.

    And the problem now is that they can’t hide him. His inability to grasp even the most basic of policy discussions is now out there for all to see.

    I don’t know how this will end, but there’s no way someone this debilitated will be able to finish out his term, Russia investigation notwithstanding.

    How could I not have seen this earlier?